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What Makes A Good Manager?

We’ve all likely endured a bad one in our careers. But what makes a good manager?

While I’ve been self-employed most of my life, in those seasons where I worked for a company Denise Birling was the best manager I ever had. She led our team of advisors for the Master of Education program at the University of Phoenix-Online. We helped teachers earn their advanced degrees in counseling, curriculum and instruction, or administration.

Our team of 12 had different reasons for working there. For some, it was a hopeful career track with that company. Some were there while a spouse finished graduate school. For others it was a bridge on the road to our ultimate destination.

While we were one group, we were each very different in personality. Among us were a sharp, wise cracking New Yorker. A former college football player with a mind for numbers who, in his off hours, impressed women with his salsa dancing. A winsome, highly focused “I want to win at everything” girl from Iowa. A smart, quiet Californian working while waiting for her boyfriend to return from Australia. And me. An independent, stubborn, self-starting Iowa farm boy who didn’t see the need for bosses, managers, or anything that smacked of supervisor.

Denise understood there was no “one size fits all” management plan. There couldn’t be.

I remember my first meeting with her. I’d prepared myself for the typical Human Resource, Policies & Procedures, rules and regulations speech. Followed by a “this is how I want things done” talk to make sure it was clear who the boss was.

She did none of that.

She didn’t tell me how she wanted everything done. She didn’t talk at all about her goals or what she wanted to accomplish.

She asked about my goals and what I wanted to accomplish. Why was I there? What did I want to achieve?

I answered, “Just tell me what I need to do to get the bonus.”

She did.

And I did.

Because she helped each of us accomplish our individual goals, our team easily accomplished our group goals. In fact, we crushed it. Like Babe Ruth hitting a meatball pitch out of the park. Our success was so significant it caused the university to institute company wide changes to how teams were structured.

Denise’s leadership was effective because she stayed close enough to keep her finger on the pulse, but far enough away so as not to breathe down your neck. She stayed connected to every member of her team without stifling or suffocating them. That’s not an easy task.

This is the challenge for every manager. How to exercise your position without alienating those on your team?

Try to micromanage an independent farm kid like me and I’ll buck like a bull in a chute.

Pull rank on a Type A “I win at everything” person and you create the wrong competition.

Try to be the smartest person in the room with a street-wise proven performer? They will stop listening to you faster than a bad podcast.

Too many managers sabotage themselves by insisting on being the focal point of the team. In doing so they become the obstacle in everyone’s way. Denise led our team to success because she made it about our goals, not hers.

It’s remarkable what a team of empowered individuals can accomplish when we get out of their way.

Zig Ziglar is famous for saying, “If you help enough people get what they want, you’ll get what you want.”

A good manager understands the fastest way to achieve your goals is to help others achieve theirs.

Todd A. Thompson – One Eye Out


This Post Has One Comment

  1. Kathy Sea

    Always love to read your posts! And I always learn something!

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